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ESPN enlists stars of Broadway's 'That Championship Season' to promote March Madness

March 16, 2011 | 10:25 am

Sutherland The worlds of college basketball and Broadway don't often intersect. But with the recent opening of the basketball-themed drama "That Championship Season" at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York, ESPN has seized the opportunity to enlist some of the ensemble cast -- including Kiefer Sutherland -- to promote coverage of the NCAA tournament, a.k.a. March Madness.

In recent days, Sutherland and other cast members have appeared in promo spots on ESPN to tout the tournament. The spots feature the actors speaking in inspirational tones, with patriotic chords providing soundtrack uplift.

"This will be the only time in your life you get to play here... the only time you'll have a chance to do something together that will be remembered forever," says Sutherland in one of the promos. "Remember that -- it might be what turns you into champions."

In the Broadway play, Sutherland plays one of a group of middle-aged men who reunite to reminisce about their championship season as high-school basketball players. Jason Miller's drama first opened on Broadway in 1972. The current revival staging also stars the playwright's son, Jason Patric, along with Brian Cox, Chris Noth and Jim Gaffigan.

A spokeswoman for "That Championship Season" said the ESPN spots were not a cross-promotional effort with the Broadway production. (The TV spots don't refer to the play in any way, unless you count the repeated use of the word "champions.") However, she added that the sports cable channel was interested in hiring the actors because the play deals with basketball.

Call it the soft sell. No doubt the play was timed to open on March 6 to take maximum advantage of March madness. Reviews of "That Championship Season" have been largely negative, with critics complaining that the story feels old-fashioned and outdated. The limited-engagement run is scheduled to end May 29.

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-- David Ng

Photo: Kiefer Sutherland. Credit: Jemal Countess / Getty Images


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